Pure mycelium foam is grown and shaped using an airflow tool. This is a modular growth chamber controlling humidity, CO2 and temperature. The design is informed by experimental lab set-ups and illustrates a proposal for an industrial fabrication tool.
This process employs airflow as an innovative sculpting technique to replace moulds. The microorganism grows from the substrate into void space, forming a foam-like material. Applying airflow to shape the material during the growth process creates novel aesthetics and functionalities.
Mycelium degrades organic compounds as energy and carbon source. It colonises the substrate and acts as a binder, essentially creating a composite material. It transforms a low-quality waste streams from agricultural residues like hemp, straw or corn husk and turns it into higher value materials like pure mycelium foam. Different substrates and growing conditions result in materials with diverse characteristics.
For this sample, airflow was applied during the growth process. Air movement can structure the material into particular shapes and pattens during growth. The mycelium mimics the airflow pattern, in this case a vortex, and grows into the desired shape.
Depending on the fungal mycelium strain, growing conditions and substrate (food source) different qualities of foam can be achieved. For that reason, the material is versatile and highly customizable.This can be useful to replace petrol-based, high-performance foams in products like footwear. ‚Sculpting with Air‘ responds to the need for more sustainable practices within this industry. Pure mycelium foam is grown from entirely regenerative sources. For this process, agricultural residues like corn husk and hemp are used as raw materials.
The 3D printed shoe last is part of the proposed airflow tool. It can be customized to suit different needs such as foot size and shape.
It contains the substrate which is the food source for the mycelium. Under the right growing conditions the mycelium grows from the substrate through the perforation of the shoe last into void space forming pure mycelium foam.
3D render: @heiko_fuman
Working in the wet lab at CSM was essential to this project. In a series of experiements Lars explored a variety on experiments to investigate the materiality of pure mycelium foam. This experimentation has built the foundation for the ‘Sculpting with Air’ concept.